Seniors lead cross country teams to top 10 finishes


Graham (right) and Anders Russell (left) lead the boys toward the finish line during the state meet.

Hannah Ferguson

The boys and girls cross country teams finished their 2015 season with the girls placing fourth and the boys finishing seventh at the State Cross Country Meet. Along the way, the girls also captured a City Championship and the boys finished City Runner-up. Both teams finished third in Region 6-AAAA.

“Togetherness,” is the word coach Jeff Cramer used to sum up his team’s success.

“We trained really well together as a group,’’ Cramer said. “We learned how to race as a group, and they ran fast.”

The runners raced through muddy, damp trails in Carrollton at the state meet on Nov. 7., placing high despite environmental and medical challenges.

The girls still placed fourth even after sophomore Walden Jones collapsed during the race, unable to finish. Senior Gracie Griffith placed third with a time of 21:18 , trailing the top runner by only 18 seconds.

Graham and Anders Russell led the boys’ seventh-place finish, placing 21st and 23rd in 18:09.47 and 18:09.83.

Graham (right) and Anders Russell (left) lead the boys toward the finish line during the state meet.
Seniors Graham (right) and Anders Russell (left) lead the boys toward the finish line during the state meet.

Even though the Russell twins paced the boys’ state finish,  their teammates did not trail far behind, conquering  the muddy course to run competitive times. The girls placed six positions higher in the state meet from their 2014 year, and the boys placed five places higher.  

“It was very different than last year, much slower,’’ Graham Russell said of the state meet. “It was tough going up the hills, especially on the second time around. It was tough, but I still felt good about the race. “I think this was a huge growing season for Grady cross country.”

The week before, Grady competed in the Region 6-AAAA meet at Marist. Both teams placed third behind Marist and St. Pius. Grady’s private school region rivals also finished first and second in the boys and girls team results at the state meet. Griffith and Tischer took two of the top 10 spots. Individually, none of the boys placed in the top 10.

Before the intensity of region and state went into full swing, the teams competed in the Sharptop Invitational on Sharptop Mountain in North Georgia on Oct. 17. Grady placed third, and the majority of runners broke personal records, including senior Mary Lerner.

“I was really happy when I broke it (personal record),’’ Lerner said. “It was my last year running. So, it was a good time for it to happen. I’m glad I got to finish the season off with a high note.”  

Before preparing for the all-important late season meets,  Grady participated in its last regular weekly Atlanta Public Schools meet at Grant Park on  Oct. 7.  That was followed by the City Championship on Oct. 14, in which the girls placed first and the boys placed second to North Atlanta.

The girls dominated the race, taking the top five places. Griffith placed first overall with a time of 21:49. The next four runners, Jones, Anna Tischer, Meredith Fossitt and Avery Bufkin finished within 1 minute of Griffith. The Russell twins tied for second place with a time of 18:13. Aidan Goldston, Erik Tischer, and William Chapman finished within 1 minute and 20 seconds of the Russells, taking three more of the top 10 places.

Senior Gracie Griffith dashes off the starting line at the state meet in Carrollton.
Senior Gracie Griffith dashes off the starting line at the state meet in Carrollton.

The team’s top seven runners made up the varsity squad, who went to region and state. The girls were seniors Griffith, Fossitt and Bufkin, sophomores Jones, Magda Dumitrescu and freshmen Tischer and Selena Kleber. The boys were seniors Skylar Diacou, Chapman and the Russell twins, junior Tischer, sophomore Goldston, and freshman Aiden Downey.

Grady finished the season ahead of predictions of an eighth and tenth place finish at state.

I think it went exactly as planned,’’ Cramer said of season’s end at the state meet.“We had a wonderful time. Everyone was happy, and they smiled all the way through all the races. They ran really, really hard. They gave it their all, and that’s what we had planned for the whole year.’’